Last year, I had the wonderful honour, and the EXTREME pleasure, of being a judge at the Ms. Opulence annual drag pageant. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun it was, the energy, the cheering, the applause, the double finger snaps! It was like being whisked back in time to the ballroom scene of New York in the 80s (well, I have never really been there, but I have seen movies lol). You get the point; all that I am saying is that you SHOULD plan to attend this event.

Personally, I’m excited to see who will end up being this year’s contestants and what magic they will be bringing to the stage. Last year’s performances were some of the best I have seen all year at any drag event in the city.

So here we are again, chatting with Ms. Opulence peeps: Founders KingAdé Johnson and Mykel Hall (DJ Black Cat) and 2018 Ms. Opulence title holder the lovely and stunning Anastarzia Anaquway.

Adé, why don’t you start by giving us the low down? Can you tell us about the history behind this event?

Adé: Well Antoine, Ms. Opulence started out as an idea I pitched to BlackCat, when I came back to Toronto five years ago. I noticed the lack of formal drag entertainment in the city and I wanted to bring that to life. So I asked BlackCat to join me in creating something that people in the city would want to come out to see, so we gave birth to Ms. Opulence.

What’s new for this year, anything exciting that we should expect on November 3rd?

Adé: One of the newest things about Ms. Opulence this year is that we’re taking it to The 519, the heart of Toronto’s LGBTQ+ community, and with that comes more exciting space to use and build on. We’re having a whole section that caters exclusively to our sponsors and community partners so they can display their products, educate our guests on the services they have to offer, and how to access them.

Mykel, I haven’t talked to you since you received the INSPIRE Awards 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award, and huge congratulations—that was well deserved. Can we still talk to you directly, or do your people have to call our people (lol)?

Mykel: I can’t tell you how happy and honored I am to have received the INSPIRE Award for Lifetime Achievement. It was such an amazing night. Antoine, you can have my direct line so that you don’t have to wait to have conversation with me lol!

Why is it important for you personally, Mykel, to be part of this? Other than the fact that Adé will probably drive you crazy if you don’t agree to it (lol)?

Mykel: Many of your readers may not know this but I also do drag once a year for Halloween. It started as a little bit of a joke for an event that I have called “Hall-O- Queen”. My drag personas name is “Pussy Noir”. She comes to Toronto in October and leaves in November LOL! She lives in Paris, France. She loves the euro lol. But on a serious note, my good friend Terry Francis AKA Duchess, passed away 17 years ago and was an amazing drag queen in Toronto. I acquired such an appreciation for the art watching him do his thing. Seeing how he entertained an audience was amazing to me. I never wanted to do it back then but he always wanted to see me do drag. Unfortunately, the first time I did drag was the year that he passed in 2001. I like to think that he’s watching me and whenever I do drag, he’s there helping me along.

What a wonderful story Mykel, and I got to see you do drag for the first time last year. Actually I was shocked and it took me a few minutes to recognize that it was you last year when you appeared in drag at the Miss Opulence event lol.

What do you see the future of Ms. Opulence to be?

Mykel: Interesting question. I feel like I would like it to go in the direction of RuPaul’s Drag Race for Canada. I’d like it to be on TV and I’d like it to get the same warm reception as we give the American Drag Race show.

Anastarzia, our turn to chat. How has this past year been as the reigning Ms. Opulence?

Anastarzia: This past year has been truly amazing. I’ve been competing in pageants of this nature since October of 2002 and since then, the one goal I’ve had is always to make the next title even better than the one that came before it. It has been an honor to be Ms. Opulence, especially considering that last year was not the year I had originally planned to compete, this year was to have been my year (chuckles)… but of course, everything happens in its own time. Holding this title has opened many doors of opportunity and has allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people on the planet. I have also had the privilege of working closely with non-profit organizations and have also been able to give back to this great community that supports me wholeheartedly.

How do you find working with two crazy and wild guys like Mykel and Adé?

Anastarzia: OMG you said it best…….they are CRAZY! But in addition to being crazy, they are truly dedicated to The Ms. Opulence brand and key message. Being on this side of the fence gave me a greater appreciation for them and the blood, sweat, and tears they both shed in organizing and preparing for everything OPULENT!!!!! To say I had fun working with them would be an understatement, I had a blast. But please don’t ever forget that they really are CRAZY.

Why do you think pageants like this are important to drag?

Anastarzia: I can’t speak for all, but I can definitely elaborate on why my life would be incomplete without pageantry. As a young boy growing up, I was always fascinated with the performing arts, specifically musical theatre. While in school I was heavily involved in anything related to the arts and would run to compete. I was determined to make it to Broadway. I developed a very competitive spirit and began dominating speech competitions and debates. In my country, The Bahamas, after completing high school, there aren’t many options for part taking in the arts. I went on a quest to satisfy my love for the arts and I found the art of female impersonation. I dove in headfirst learning everything there is to know; and this new art form became my life. And with every tribulation I faced, with every failed relationship, and with every door slammed in my face, drag was always there. It became that best friend that would never leave my side. For me it became more than just a form of expression. It became one of my reasons for existing. We sometimes spend a lifetime chasing things, dreams and people, but in my case I chased drag and this is one drug that brings me pure pleasure. You can see my passion for it in my preparation for shows and pageants. Oh my, I’ll babble on and on if you let me! So to answer your question, for some, pageantry of this nature is a form of expression; for others, it’s a way of life and for those like me, it is a perpetuation of our spirits.

What would say to the next group of contestants?

Anastarzia: The things I would say are: in the midst of competing, remember the fun. The base on which our industry is built is excitement. In times past, we became so concerned with winning that we had forgotten to have fun. Secondly, in your preparation, remember to stay true to yourself. A successful package would be one that is a perfect representation of the entertainer that you are. Thirdly, put on a damn show for crying out loud; give new meaning to the word entertainer! Lastly, one thing I always say in life is aspire to be greater than those that came before you. Be it your parents, teachers, siblings, former contestants or the outgoing queen. Aspire to be greater than your imagination allows.

Back to you, Adé. How do we keep up with news and all the other lovely details about entering the contest or buying tickets?

Adé: Tickets will be available on our Eventbrite page, The 519, BlackCAP, The Diner’s Corner, and at Glad Day Bookstore as soon as they go on sale in September. You can also get a look at the new contestants on Saturday September 15, 2018 @ the 519 when we launch our first ever “Ms. Opulence: The Show”

For all the latest updates on Ms. Opulence 2018 -19 you can follow us on:

Facebook @MsOpulenceTo
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Thank you all for the wonderful chat. theBuzz and INspired Media are proud to once again be the trusted Media Partners of this incredible event.

About the Author

Antoine has on numerous occasions said that everything he does is "a love letter to the LGBTQ community". and he truly loves this community. A 29 years' media and marketing leader, Antoine is the publisher of theBUZZ, The Pink Pages Directory, PinkPlayMags, and a magazine for Durham Region families The Local Biz Magazine, and is the host of talk show "On the Couch". On his off time he is usually involved in community organizations and causes.